Janett Haid (EUV, Frankfurt/Oder)

“Yes we can! – Sí se puede!” – Speaking the language of the masses. Code switching for creating togetherness with a foreign audience in political speeches.

“Ich bin ein Berliner!” Everybody knows these famous words that John F. Kennedy proclaimed on the 26 of june 1963 in front of the town-hall of Schöneberg in Western Berlin. After these statement the crowd was enthusiastically screaming and applauding. Why? What the people understood and should have understood was obviously: “I am solidary with you! I am one of you!”, not only due to what Kennedy said – but also or first of all because he said it in German. He used the audience`s language. From a linguistic point of view this phenomenon of switching from one language to another is called “code switching” which means a communicatively meaningful change of linguistic variety within the same conversation or sentence (see e.g. Gumperz 1994: 613).
In Germany and Austria a lot of research has been conducted on code switching between standard and dialectal varieties and its functions (e. g. Schwitalla 2006; Kaiser 2006; Unterholzner 2009; for code switching in political speeches see e. g. Holly 1990). However, code switching between different languages in a political context has rather been disregarded by linguistic or politolinguistic research so far. This phenomenon of switching (at least for a few words) to the language of the audience can be found in almost every political speech for a foreign audience. Remarkably enough code switching is commonly be observed at the beginning and at the end of such an official performance – even if the person is not a fluent speaker of this language.
The aim of this paper is to focus on the function and the pragmatic use of code switching in political contexts especially in speeches for a foreign audience. It will be shown that code switching is a communicative strategy to create a common bond and intimacy or to construe a private – sometimes humorous – atmosphere in a medial-public context.

Gumperz, John (1994): Sprachliche Variabilität in interaktionsanalytischer Perspektive. In: Werner Kallmeyer (Hg.): Kommunikation in der Stadt. Teil 1. Exemplarische Analysen des Sprachverhaltens in Mannheim, S. 611-682. Berlin/New York: de Gruyter.
Holly, Werner (1990): Politikersprache. Inszenierung und Rollenkonflikte im informellen Sprechhandeln eines Bundestagsabgeordneten. Berlin et al.: de Gruyter.
Kaiser, Irmtraud (2006): „Warum sagt ma des?“. Code Switching und Code Shifting zwischen Dialekt und Standard in Gesprächen des österreichischen Fernsehens. In: Zeitschrift für Dialektologie und Linguistik, LXXIII. Jahrgang, Heft 3, S. 275-299.
Schwitalla, Johannes (2006): Gesprochenes Deutsch. Eine Einführung. Berlin: Ehrich Schmidt.
Unterholzner, Franz (2009): Gesprächsstruktur und Sprachvariation bei Radiotelefonaten. Eine Analyse von Telefongesprächen im regionalen Salzburger Radio. Saarbrücken: VDM.